CHEMICAL SAFETY - INTRODUCTION

A variety of chemicals are used at the University. Many of these can be harmful to your health if you are exposed to them and/or pose a risk of injury or incident if not handled properly. This section of the website provides information on working with chemicals.

Chemicals are classified in many different ways. Due to their hazardous nature priority is given to managing the risks associated with chemicals that fall into the following overlapping categories:

Hazardous substances

Hazardous substances are pure chemicals or chemical mixtures that are harmful to your health. The harmful effects could be either short-term (eg. result in poisoning) or long-term (eg. cause cancer). If a chemical or chemical mixture is classified as hazardous this will be stated on the label and material safety data sheet.

Manufactures and suppliers of chemicals are required to determine whether or not a substance is hazardous. They do this by referring to the online Hazardous Substances Information System (HSIS) which includes approved criteria for classifying hazardous substances. These resources are maintained and published by Safe Work Australia.

These criteria are used to determine if a substance is classified as very toxic, toxic, harmful, irritant, corrosive, sensitising, carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction. Application of the criteria also determines which "risk phrases" and "safety phrases" must be applied to labels and material safety data sheets.

Dangerous goods

Dangerous goods are substances or articles (not only chemicals) that pose a risk to people, property or the environment due to their physical or chemical properties (eg. explosive, flammable, toxic, corrosive, environmentally hazardous). Dangerous goods are usually classified with reference to the immediate hazard they pose rather than the long-term effects.

Manufacturers and suppliers are required to identify dangerous goods by reference to the Australian Code for the Transport of Dangerous Goods by Road and Rail and assign to them the appropriate dangerous goods class, packing group and UN number.

Scheduled poisons

Scheduled poisons are classified in accordance with the Poisons Standards 2010 to ensure that there are appropriate access controls for pharmaceuticals and chemicals that might be used domestically. They are classified on the basis of health effects and particular controls are applied in relation to labelling, packaging (eg. childproof lids), dispensing of drugs (eg. pharmacy only, prescription only), and the security and restricted use of illicit drugs and highly toxic substances (eg. cyanides).